Hundreds of local residents have protested at news that the only recreational space left for their families was to be built on with even more new homes in their rapidly developing village.
Developer Bernicia has lodged plans with North Tyneside Council to build homes on a playing field surrounded by properties on Castle Square in Backworth, just to the north of Newcastle. The scheme would be a mix of two, three and four bedroom houses, two bedroom bungalows and two bedroom apartments. All of them will be classed as “affordable housing”.
Bernicia says that 70% of the open space at Castle Square will remain available for the public to enjoy and the new properties would help to meet local housing need.
However, residents say the site, which includes a children’s play area, is used by hundreds, and would be a loss to the community. Some 800 people have signed a petition calling for the plans to be shelved.
The original village was a centre of coal mining and its initial growth dates back to the 19th century. In recent years, substantial new housing developments have sprung up along the A19 corridor as the boundaries blur with the Greater Newcastle urban area to the south.
The area is part of North Tyneside Council’s strategic growth corridor. Its Local Plan earmarked the area for a rapid expansion in development, in tandem with new road and rail infrastructure and retail parks. The new Northumberland Park Metro Station was opened in the centre of a new residential area between Backworth, Shiremoor and West Allotment. A new Sainsbury’s store was also opened in February of last year.
In total some 1000 houses have already been built, so the focus on the playing field for just 32 properties has enraged residents.
There are also concerns about the impact on traffic and wildlife. Residents say roads such as Backworth Lane are already congested and more houses could exacerbate problems.
Bernicia says they had consulted with residents on the proposals and have already reduced the number of houses planned from the original 42 allocated. In a statement they said: “The land is identified by North Tyneside Council in its Local Plan for housing development; The and our proposed scheme will contribute towards helping the local authority meet its target of building 3,000 affordable new homes.”
The playing field used to have housing on it many years ago before being cleared. While the site’s usage has changed, the land use zoning assumptions, it would seem, have not.
A young protestor makes her feelings known. Image courtesy of Newcastle Chronicle
So far, 128 formal objections have been submitted to the Council planning committee over the loss of green space, traffic and safety.
The villagers have also involved Sport England in the protests, as the proposal involves the loss of a football pitch. At a time when government is aiming to encourage both adults and children to adopt more healthy, outdoor lifestyles, the proposals do seem somewhat ironic.
Bernicia said it has been consulting with residents on the proposals and the layout will allow more of the green space to be retained.
Michael Farr, Executive Director of Assets and Growth at Bernicia, said: “The plan we have submitted to North Tyneside Council is to build high quality, affordable homes for rent and shared ownership for local people.
“It helps young people get onto the housing ladder, young families looking for a new home or older people looking to downsize.
“We’ve met with local people twice at public meetings to share our plans and listen to their concerns.”
North Tyneside Council, which owns the land at Castle Square, says it cannot comment on the matter at this stage as any developments would be subject to the planning process.
The council is expected to decide on the application in March.
Backworth is an important example of how once an area is designated as a strategic development location, incentivised developers will bring forward planning applications that could have a significant impact on local residents.
Playing fields are often strategic land assets that are owned by Parish or District Councils. Faced with significant housing demand in any area, especially “affordable” stock, it is very tempting to convert these assets.
Conveyancers need to be wary of any playing fields adjoining a client’s prospective property. Immediate access to green space from the property may be a major plus to your client, especially if they have a young family. But it isn’t a guarantee that it will be there forever.
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Main image courtesy of Newcastle Chronicle